Outgoing councillor non-committal about plans

No predictions — 'particularly about the future,' John Parker quips

It’s two and a half weeks after the municipal election. Yet, as John Parker walks the corridor by his soon-to-be-vacated city hall office, he is stopped repeatedly by staff and fellow councillors telling him they’re sorry to see him go.

Among those is North York councillor James Pasternak, who tells the outgoing Ward 26 representative he is a graduate of Leaside High School. He then asks what Parker’s plans are, going forward.

“I haven’t planned anything beyond lunch today,” Parker quips.

The two-term councillor for Don Valley West was the only incumbent defeated on Oct. 27, losing by almost 15 points to businessman and former police officer Jon Burnside, who had almost beaten him in 2010.

Sitting in his now-barren office, devoid of personal mementos and surrounded by half-filled bookshelves featuring only bylaws and the city’s official plan, Parker reflects on his time in office and acknowledges his efforts and approach to politics might have been his undoing.

In a typically frank conversation, he said he refused to “indulge in a shameless and irresponsible approach to government” that could ensure “perpetual employment” at council. He cited cases where other councillors would propose last-minute amendments at council meetings after decisions had already been made and agreed upon, so they could “write home” to constituents to tell of their victories on council.

“If I wanted something I advanced my cause fair and square, through the course of the process,” he said. “Once we had arrived at something that is the product of everyone’s contribution, I never indulged in that vanity of pulling a fast one on the floor of council to get something through the back door that I couldn’t get any other way.”

Describing his approach to work at city hall as an effort to be “part of the 10 percent,” Parker called upon the words of U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger: “Ninety percent of politicians give the other 10 percent a bad reputation.”

“I’ve always done my best to try to be part of the 10 percent,” he said.

Parker’s work often dealt with development proposals, including one for the 63-acre Celestica site on the northwest corner of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East, which will be “an issue for years to come,” he said.

The proposal is seeking to change the designation for the area from employment land to mixed use, allowing for the construction of condominiums, offices and shopping centres. This is not all different from what Leaside’s old factories have seen in recent years, Parker said.

“That kind of story to one degree or another is what we are facing throughout the city,” he said. “And we’re facing it in Leaside as much as anywhere else.”

Parker says he is serious about not having immediate plans for his future, and gives no indication whether politics or perhaps a return to law might be in the cards.

“Like I said on election night, Yogi Berra once said ‘One should never make predictions, particularly about the future’,” he said.

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Posted: Nov 17 2014 9:10 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto